Kindergarten is an enormous step for all children.Kindergarten teachers leave lasting impressions on the children that they welcome into their classrooms. Kindergarten is also some children’s first experience in a traditional classroom, making this year of schooling especially important.
Ashley McKeown, a kindergarten teacher at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center and our Spotlight for December,rises to this occasion year after year. She has this quote displayed in her home, “While we teach our children about life, our children teach us what life’s all about.” This perfectly describes Mrs. McKeown’s passion and excitement for her career and for her students.
Mrs. McKeown began her career at Kennett Consolidated School District 11 years ago, when she began teaching half-day kindergarten at the New Garden Kindergarten Center. She also spent a year teaching the LEAP program for at-risk learners. She spent two years teaching first grade students at New Garden Elementary School; since then, she has taught full-day kindergarten at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center.
Mrs. McKeown earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with a minor in human development and family studies, from Penn State. As a student teacher, she spent a full year in a first and second grade multi-age classroom. She then earned her master’s degree in early childhood education from West Chester University. Her education has allowed her to keep students’ developmental levels in mind as she plans engaging lessons and manages behavior. She says, “Since my focus is on child development, educating the ‘whole child’is at the forefront of my thinking – cognitive, social, emotional, and physical.”
In addition to being a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. McKeown is a representative on the Math Standing Committee and a Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) facilitator for Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center, but perhaps her most important position is as a positive role model for her students. Mrs. McKeown says, “I model respect and manners when speaking with my students. I remind them that making mistakes is okay and that we can work to correct them. Kindness is essential to creating a warm and loving atmosphere in my classroom.”
Although the work can be challenging, Mrs. McKeown describes it as rewarding and exciting. Differentiating between the needs of her students is a constant reminder that there is always room to grow and change. She says, “Looking at previous lesson plans and realizing I need to make adjustments each year helps me grow as a teacher. No year is the same. Different students have different needs and that requires new and fresh ideas.”
But for Mrs. McKeown, it’s all about the kindergartners’ zest for life and learning:
“The light in my students’ eyes when they’ve made a connection or have an “a-ha” moment is amazing. It’s the only job where at least 10 people a day give you a hug and say “I love you.”Witnessing the growth of kindergarten students in a year – students who begin the year knowing no letters, sounds, or how to recognize/write their name, to reading on-grade-level books and writing multiple sentence stories by the end is worth it.”
Outside the classroom, Mrs. McKeown participates in Responsive Classroom courses and pursues independent education, such as reading about Word Study and the Daily 5 model for organizing productive, independent work time. This allows her to make the most of her small-group time.
Mrs. McKeown lives in Kennett Square Borough with her three children – four-year-old twin boys Henry and Bryce and two-year-old daughter Riley—and her husband of six years, Jim.She enjoys photography and visiting museums, fire stations, and playgrounds with her children. Kennett Consolidated School District is lucky to have such a genuine, observant, and caring teacher to usher all those fresh faces into kindergarten.